The 32nd Annual Mermaid Parade gets rolling on Saturday at 1:00pm. The free event is one of the most hugely crowded days of the year in Coney Island. If you’re not marching, where are the best places to spectate and take photos? Anywhere along Surf Avenue from the parade’s starting point at West 21st Street to West 10th Street, where it turns to go onto the Boardwalk. You’ll miss the antique cars and motorized floats if you opt for the backdrop of the Cyclone on West 10th and the seaside atmosphere of the boardwalk. This year, the parade disbands at Steeplechase Plaza, where the Parachute Jump is located on the boardwalk at West 17th Street.
ATZ asked photographer Barry Yanowitz, who grew up in Coney Island and whose splendid photos from past parades are featured in this post, to share his strategy for Saturday. “On the parade route itself, my favorite spot is across from Nathan’s – that makes a great backdrop. The only problem is that this spot gets very crowded very fast so you have to stake out a spot early.” Yes, it bears repeating. GET THERE EARLY. Latecomers will not be able to navigate due to the crowds and crossing Surf Avenue while parade is in progress is iffy due to NYPD barricades.
“My favorite part of shooting the Mermaid Parade is actually not on the parade route itself,” says Barry. “It’s all the activity around it before and after! I love all the behind the scenes moments of participants getting ready and casually hanging out in Coney Island in their costumes.”
The best place to take photos before the parade is the staging area on West 21st Street from 10:30am till 12:30pm. “You do not have to make reservations to take pictures on West 21st Street. You just have to pay $20 in advance or day of, CASH ONLY,” according to Coney Island USA’s handy set of Mermaid Parade FAQs. “If you are Working Press with an NYPD Press Pass, you can enter the West 21st Street staging area for free.”
One of ATZ’s fave viewing spots is from the judges’ reviewing stand, where paraders stop to do choreographed dance numbers for “Mayor” Dick Zigun, King Neptune and Queen Mermaid and bribe the judges with goodies. You can buy a judgeship –yes, only in Coney!– for the price of a $150 “Big Spender” membership with non-profit Coney Island USA, which produces the parade. The judgeship entitles you to VIP seating on the canopied reviewing stand (Surf Avenue, between West 19th and 20th Streets), a Mermaid Parade Judge T-Shirt, and bribes.
“This year, instead of one, there will be three official stopping points for marchers to do their routines,” says Meryl Vladimer of Coney Island USA. The performance stops are the judges reviewing stand at 20th Street, in front of Nathan’s Famous at Surf and Stillwell Avenues, and in front of Coney Island USA at Surf and West 12th Street.
After the parade, everywhere is a good spot, as mermaids and pirates cavort on the beach and boardwalk, have a drink at Ruby’s Bar, and go for a spin on the rides. If you can’t make it to Coney on Saturday afternoon, there’s the Mermaid Parade Ball from 6pm till midnight at MCU Park. General admission is $35, VIP for $100 available online only.
Related posts on ATZ…
June 16, 2011: Last Chance to See Mermaid Parade Before It Turns 30!
January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010